Villagers in Allihies who run the website expressed their shock and revulsion yesterday after it emerged that it had been targeted by pornographers, and they are worried it may harm their image.
They were furious to discover the site, which was set up five years ago, had been corrupted.
“We’re shocked because Allihies has been debased by this. It was a promotional site for community groups and businesses. It’s shocking. Seemingly there’s nothing we can do,” said parish co-operative member Tadhg O’Sullivan.
Local county councillor Noel Harrington said the people of Allihies had being trying to promote their parish.
“I’m furious that this website is now being misrepresented in the way it has. I’m concerned that it could prove damaging for the area and I hope steps are taken to stop it. I welcome the fact that the gardaí are making enquiries in relation to this,” Mr Harrington said.
One of the country’s most senior law lecturers said it was the first time he had come across a small community-run website “being invaded” in such a fashion.
Tony O’Malley, senior law lecturer at the University of Galway, said more international co-operation was needed to stop hackers from outside this country infiltrating Irish websites.
“Technology has run ahead of the law. It’s very difficult to stop someone outside the jurisdiction from doing this. One of the biggest problems with porn and child porn is that it’s so difficult to track,” Mr O’Malley said.
Gardaí believe the pornographic images of young women probably originated in the US and are carrying out a number of enquiries, including checking with the internet service provider.
Both gardaí and Mr O’Malley said community organisations and small businesses around the country should check their websites in case this was the start of a concerted effort by hackers to flood Ireland with porn.
“Firewalls and blocking systems should be used. Communities very often set up a website and then nobody monitors them for months on end,” Mr O’Malley said.